HOT DISH: Dierks Bentley Hits the Ice for No. 1 Party

Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Kellie Pickler and Dolly Parton Also Making News

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

Would you believe we had Dierks on ice?! There he was, that cute, curly-headed Dierks Bentley wearing a No. 7 hockey jersey, skating across the ice with hockey stick in hand.

This was the fifth No. 1 party of his career, but this one for “Free and Easy” (Down the Road I Go)” was especially special because he and his producer, Brett Beavers, co-wrote the song with Robbie Harrington and Rod Janzen, who play in Dierks’ band.

We poured into downtown Nashville’s Sommet Center where howdys were said and hot dogs were served. Dierks schmoozed and chatted — just nice, sweet, kind and mingling while calling everybody by name. Capitol Nashville chief Mike Dungan hosted the event and introduced CMA exec Tammy Genovese, who presented Dierks with champagne and a Triple Play award for having three No. 1 singles during 2007.

Dungan brought up ASCAP’s Connie Bradley, who gave jackets to the ASCAP writers and presented the primary guest of honor with a cooler containing five bottles of wine to signify each of Dierks’ No. 1 singles. BMI’s Jody Williams followed and gave guitars and silver cups. Williams said he’d witnessed a half-dozen Bentley concerts this year and added that Dierks has the best touring band on the road. Capitol gave Dierks an engraved crystal trophy.

Lastly, I must say the coolest girl in the room was Dierks wife, Cassidy.

Garth Brooks Still Grabbing Headlines
Garth Brooks has donated objects from his career to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Garth presented his first gold record and cassette he received for his self-titled album, handwritten lyrics for “Beaches of Cheyenne” (including his corrections and revisions), a Takamine guitar (the one he smashed in 1991 during his first TV special, This Is Garth Brooks), a Mo Betta shirt, black jeans, black cowboy boots, a belt and a black Stetson hat with a label bearing his name. The museum has also received the plaque Garth received in November from the RIAA as the new top-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music.

Garth will perform five shows in two days (Jan. 25-26) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to benefit the recent fire victims and for the future of fire fighting in California. The five shows sold out in 59 minutes — selling 85,000-plus tickets.

Joe Don, Shooter and the Christmas Stork
“Yes, there is a Santa Claus,” said Rascal Flatts Joe Don Rooney upon the announcement that he and his wife, 2005 Playboy Playmate of the Year Tiffany Fallon, are expecting their first child May 2008. Joe Don has got the Flatts singing “Joy to the World.”

Shooter Jennings and girlfriend Drea de Matteo announce the birth of a daughter born in New York City and weighing in at 8 pounds 3 ounces. She’s named Alabama Gypsy Rose. It’s Shooter and Drea’s time to sing “Away in a Manger.”

Kenny Chesney Sells Out Another Stadium
On Nov. 30, my dear friend, Kenny Chesney, got the huge news that he sold out Gillette Stadium near Boston in just 15 minutes. Pals Keith Urban, Sammy Hagar, LeAnn Rimes and Gary Allan will join Kenny on July 26. “What a way to start out our year and our tour,” said Kenny.

Merry Christmas, Kenny, and a happy New Year. The folks in Luttrell, Tenn., must be busting at the seams as they proudly think of hometown boy Kenny as they harmonize “Deck the Halls.”

Sarah Johns Whispers Her Excitement
When newcomer Sarah Johns came to my kitchen to tape an episode of Southern Fried Flicks, her one wish was to open shows for George Strait. “It’s always been a dream of mine,” she allowed as she stared at photos in my office of me and the Cowboy.

Well, ol’ Santa came through on Nov. 30. With Sarah nursing a tonsillectomy, she could not even scream when she got the invitation from the Strait man to join him on the road, so she sat and cried and texted everyone she could think of. Sarah, another believer in Mr. Claus, loves country music. “The countrier, the better,” she whispered.

More News
Santa really dropped big ol’ gift early for Luke Bryan, Jason Michael Carroll, Bucky Covington, Jake Owen and Taylor Swift. The five will perform on the New Faces Show during next year’s Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. And they are probably singing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” right now.

The great Dolly Parton is more than likely playing her gut-string guitar and singing her self-penned “Hard Candy Christmas” with a mile-wide smile after taking her childhood literacy program, the Imagination Library, across the pond to the United Kingdom. Dolly launched the overseas program in Rotherham, England, with the first book, Beatrix Potter’s Tales of Peter Rabbit, to be mailed to registered children (from birth until age 5) beginning in 2008.

Kellie Pickler is spending part of the holidays in the Persian Gulf where she will perform for the troops as part of a USO tour. This is Kellie’s first trip overseas, and the little North Carolina songbird is grateful for the opportunity. Santa has been real good to Kellie in 2007.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Holiday Salad.